Twin Escalation Syndrome in toddlers: 8 Essential tips for twin parents

Twin escalation syndrome(TES) is an inclination of twins to copy and escalate exponentially through tantrum and misbehavior in reaction to each other. Take this situation for instance, your two year old boy cries out for one reason or the other. His twin brother hears the fussing and takes it a notch higher by crying harder and longer.

Frustrated, you put behind what you were doing and try to avert the crisis that is about to take place- Two twin toddlers crying at the top of their voice in the middle of the night and countless annoying calls from your neighbors expressing their displeasure. It is a frustrating state to be in as a parent but the tips discussed in this article will help you navigate the situation gracefully all the while maintaining your sanity.

What twin parents should look out for.

This syndrome is a result of twins trying to compete for the attention of their parents, hence the ‘try to outdo behavior.’ It is likely to occur from infancy up until early childhood. If your twins are always trying to outdo each other by crying or taking as much space for themselves during cuddles, you are probably dealing with TES.

Essential tips for dealing with Twin Escalation Syndrome

1.        Be Calm.

In any situation involving tantrums, aggressive behavior, or crying toddlers, staying calm is of utmost importance. You want to maintain your sanity and tone down your frustrations if you are to deal with the situation effectively. Giving in to frustration will only escalate things to almost uncontrollable levels. In the event of TES, a parent time-out will be beneficial and give you a clear head to understand and point out your next move.

2.         Diffuse the situation by diversion

Tantrums may arise from the child’s inability to express themselves properly, boredom, unhappiness, or plain hunger, among other reasons. Redirecting the behavior that stems from tantrums will channel the twins’ negative energy into a positive activity. Try getting them involved in a song they like or in that particular movie they can’t seem to have enough of. In the redirecting approach, you are a neutral person trying to bring peace between the negative behaviors in your children and creating a solution that will be amicable for all.

Naturally, Twin Escalation Syndrome (TES) will most likely be spearheaded by one twin, you should therefore sit them down and try to understand the root reason for this type of behavior and then take a necessary action to correct it.

3·         Twin Separation

Physically separating your twins is one way of solving this problem that the everyday twin parent is likely to face. Put them in different rooms where they have minimal interaction when the crying and tantrums begin. This will prevent the “try to outdo behavior” and it will give you peace of mind for the time being. Separation will also reduce future instances of Twin separation anxiety.

4·         Reduce Competition.

Most likely, twins compete with each other because they are constantly compared to each other.  Competition will be reduced once each child feels that they are valued and appreciated for who they are. Creating quality one-on-one time for each twin is extremely beneficial. During this time, do things with your child that they enjoy and remind them often of how great they are and how unique they are. Encourage them to pursue and develop different interests to reduce the spectrum of competition.

It is natural for twins to crave the attention, love and approval of their parents. When they don’t get the approval, they will act out, misbehave and initiate TES. Identifying twin toddler behavior will help you to understand what works for each twin.

5·         Time-out

Time-out is a recommended way of dealing with TES with a goal of removing the child from an environment which is enjoyable and enriched with the offending behavior in order to get rid of it. Basically, it is sending the child away from where he/she has done an unacceptable behavior and reducing their rewards, parents’ attention and any fun activities. Studies by university of Michigan have confirmed that time- outs do not do any harm to the child. Neither do they cause anxiety and adult behavioral issues.

 For time-outs to be effective, Dr. Knight recommends calmness, consistency, a positive environment and prior planning of the time-out process. The basic rule for time-out for children above three years is one minute/for the child’s age. Donaldson and Vollmer in their study show that 4 minutes is enough time for a successful timeout procedure. Time- out effectiveness will also be dependent on factors such as the age of the child, their individual personality, disposition and the overall emotional welfare. Parents should teach their children why the time-out action is being taken and what they need to change before they are let out of time-out.

6·         Cultivate conflict resolution

After the escalating behavior is diffused, parents should take advantage and introduce conflict resolution measures to avoid future instances of undesirable behavior. Leading by example is important as children are always following whatever their parents do. Instill in them positive conflict resolution mechanisms by giving them examples of how they should have gone about a certain issue.

 Letting them know the consequences of their actions will cultivate a culture of responsibility for your children. Say your child tends to take the other’s toy and the outcome is both of them falling into TES mode as they try to copy and exceed the behaviors of each other- now is the time you air your concerns by letting them know that the behavior displeases you and by taking an affirmative disciplinary action.

Teach them proper apologies and good manners when borrowing an item from each other. Do not be dictatorial but be firm and authoritative to warrant effectiveness. Read Dr. Pamela Varady’s steps to follow when teaching twins conflict resolution.

7·         A reward for good behavior.

To turn things around, you can try the reward method, where you give the twins a certain privilege or gift when they do the right thing. (Reward the twin who calms down first during the episodes of TES or both of them when they reduce TES behaviors.) You can always keep a reward chart to track the progress children are making to reach a certain reward.

Having a reward system will make it easier for children to understand what is expected of their behavior as well as the things they stand to lose in case of bad behavior. Agreed behavior system reduce the chances of your children developing a baseless sense of entitlement. You can always choose from a variety of rewards including; praises, candy, let them choose a meal to be cooked, double portion for their favorite activity, a gift or any other reward ideas you may come up with depending on your children’s’ interests.

8·         Check out mentally (Ignore)

If by any chance the tips above do not work, you can try ‘checking out mentally’ for a while. One cause of Twin escalation syndrome is twin competition for attention, when you do not give in to their demands, the TES behaviors are likely to reduce as the twins will learn to tone down the competition.  You can always seek advice from professional pediatrics and twin specialists to get more information on handling the Twin Escalation Syndrome.

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